Can Russell Wilson really keep up his great touchdown pace?

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 28: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to pass the against the Detroit Lions during the first half at Ford Field on October 28, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 28: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to pass the against the Detroit Lions during the first half at Ford Field on October 28, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Russell Wilson has been flying under the radar for touchdowns per pass attempt, but he’s been pretty amazing. Can he keep up the pace?

I bet you’re staring at your phone, wondering, “What touchdown pace is this guy talking about? I mean, Russell is my guy, but he’s not setting any records!” I’ll give you that. Russell Wilson isn’t very likely to set the NFL record for most touchdowns per pass attempt, but he’s sure giving it a nice run. And it’s going largely unnoticed because he typically hasn’t thrown a ton of passes since the Seahawks got their run game going. Although that could be changing soon.

So let’s start with the basics. Wilson has thrown 18 touchdowns in 221 attempts. That’s 8.1 percent, good for third in the league. That’s behind that FitzMagic guy and some kid that plays in Kansas City. Think about all the hype Ryan Fitzpatrick and Patrick Mahomes have been getting. They both deserve every bit of press they’re getting; it’s great for the game overall. No sour grapes here at all.

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But where is the love for Russell Wilson? He’s throwing more touchdowns per attempt than every other quarterback. Yes, that’s more than Rivers, Goff, Luck, Brees, Ryan, Brady, Rodgers, you name ’em. Mind you, this is after he had a bad week, throwing just two touchdowns (and that awful pick six) in 39 attempts. Before Sunday’s game, Wilson was scoring on 8.8 percent of his throws. Pretty sweet for a guy who’s getting zero national love.

A week ago, one of the hundreds of talking heads on the Sunday football shows – sorry, can’t remember who – said Russell Wilson would not be able to maintain this pace. Now, it wasn’t entirely clear if he meant Wilson’s pace for the season, or for the Lions game.

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant the single game. Because three touchdowns on just 17 attempts is 17.6 percent. He was right, no one has ever come close to that for a season.

Russell Wilson is a long, long way from the single season record, though

Speaking of records, thought you’d like to know just how far Wilson (and Fitzy and Mahomes) are from the single season record for most touchdowns per attempt. Surprise, the record-holder isn’t Peyton Manning, although of course he’s on the list, tied for sixth in fact. No, the record setter is that blast from the past, Sid Luckman. The Hall of Famer was a huge part of the Chicago Bears dominance through the 1940s, and the NFL’s first great modern quarterback. Oh, the record? In 1943, Luckman connected on 28 touchdowns on just 202 attempts. That’s a ridiculous 13.9 percent.

For easier context, if Russell Wilson was throwing touchdowns at that rate, he’d have 31 touchdown passes already. Mahomes would have 44, but wait, it  gets even crazier. Remember Peyton Manning and his thoroughly sick 55 touchdowns for the Broncos in 2013? To match Luckman’s rate, the world’s favorite insurance pitchman would have to throw 91 touchdowns in his 659 attempts. Yes, ninety-one, with the upside-down six at the beginning. Crazy, right?

You can see the rest of the single season records in the link, of course. Sure, it isn’t likely that Luckman would have maintained such a high rate in today’s game. He never broke 10 percent in any other season. But that’s hardly maligning him. For his career, the Bears great scored on 7.9 percent of his passes, an incredible number.

The point is, for all the problems Russell Wilson is having – and he’s having problems, to be sure – Wilson is still performing at a very high level, and hardly anyone has noticed. The answer to the question I asked so very long ago is yes. Wilson was over six percent in four of his previous six seasons, with a high of 7.0 percent in 2015.

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Fun facts: Peyton Manning had his highest percentage in his seventh season. Aaron Rodgers set his career best, 9.0 percent, in his seventh season. Tom Brady had to screw it up by setting his season best 8.7 percent in his eight season. Although it was his seventh season as the starter. Wilson is definitely in the sweet spot for continuing his unsung and excellent touchdown prowess.